Monday, September 27, 2010

Kissed by a giraffe

Kiss and Tell.

The giraffe center is a sanctuary for a certain breed of endangered giraffes. Years ago they rescued this species from poachers and possible extinction and now.... they kiss you in Thanks!

I found my way to the giraffe center over the weekend in an attempt to see these gentle beasts up close. Their stilted gliding walk and smooth bobbing heads make you stop and take note. They are mesmerizing in size and beauty.

I had to climb to the second floor to look them in the eye -- and try and get my smooches! These (almost*) gentle beasts quietly pass their days making out with strangers from countries far and wide! They don’t seem to mind who you are, so long as you have pellets in your mouth!

Kissing a giraffe is a lot like getting your face licked by a VERY large kitten. The tongue is raspy and warm... and if left to lick too long in one spot... you risk losing a layer of skin.

The first kiss I got was from a giraffe named Jack. After licking my face, he pulled his head away in disgust (you could see the disgusted confusion on his face!). He seemed to be saying,  “Yuck! That one didn’t taste right!” Apparently, giraffes don’t like make-up.

By the second kiss, he knew what he was getting into and didn’t protest. But he did slobber a lot. Kissing a giraffe was considerably more than I expected it to be. Don't judge me... but I liked it a lot.

*** I say they are almost gentle beasts because I’m told they can head-butt you unconscious if you don’t feed them fast enough. And.... if you have the misfortune of being kicked by one, you’ll be lucky to ever walk again, assuming you live. ***

Friday, September 24, 2010

Still Understanding Sudan

Guest Author ~ Daniel Crawford (Short term missionary who served with IDAT over the summer)

He writes in his most recent blog:

I have been back from Sudan for almost 6 weeks now.  Last Sunday at church I vividly relived an experience I had in Sudan.  It meant little to me at the time, but now I understand why I had it: so that I could know God's love for me more.

In the middle of worship the Lord revived my memory of the day I slaughtered a goat in Sudan.  It was so bloody, so messy, and just horrific.  The Father and the Son went through this horrible ordeal for me.  When I killed the goat, I felt it's life-blood on my hands.  I'm not about to get theological, but I wonder, did the Father feel the life of His Son in his hands?  They suffered so much.

I also remember, although I was not present for the experience, the second goat we slaughtered in Sudan.  I heard the story that Jonathan had the knife on the goat's neck when Donato came running: "Not that goat!  Not that goat!"  He came and spared the goat's life.  A different goat was killed.  That is what Jesus did for me.  When the knife was put to my throat, He came running, yelling "Not that goat!  Not that goat!  I love him!"  He came and He spared me, and placed Himself under the knife that was meant for me.  His life was taken.  Blood and water flowed from His side.  The Father watched as He died.

O Lord, your love is so good.

The Lord showed me these things and much more during worship last Sunday, and I left knowing His love for me unlike ever before.

I am back in SLO for college.  I am still working on a video documentary of my experience in Sudan.  It will be released soon.


Check out Daniels blog at Summer in Sudan

Monday, September 20, 2010

Swahili Birthday Song

This is how Kenyan's sing "Happy Birthday"

September Newsletter ~ Midwifery Times

I hope you enjoy this newsletter. It was a growing experience for me. I'd love to hear what you think. Feedback is the best.

Thanks again for everything!

P.s. I'm looking for a better name for my newsletter. I want it to scream midwife/babies/missions/more. Any ideas? Best idea gets a prize. :- )

Midwifery Times September 2010

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A little snip here and there...

So a Kenyan friend of mine tells me the other day that he’s considering circumcision. He’s in his 20s and seems otherwise sane. So when I ask him why, his answer didn’t quite compute. 

Me: Why get circumcised?
Him: Cause all my friends are circumcised.
Me: But... is it for sanitary reason?
Him: No.
Me: Is it for religious reasons?
Him: No.
Me: Then... why? I’m confused.
Him: It’s a rite of passage. My friends did it... now I’m suppose to do it.
Me: But what’s the purpose?
Him: Because...

The conversation ended with confused laughter and we went on about our business. A few days later he told me he had the procedure and it was awful. (I must confess I secretly laughed.) He said that watching them pull the foreskin up and snipping away was horrifying! (I can’t blame him!) And that when they went to suture it up he almost fainted. (Wouldn’t everyone?)

After the procedure I asked him if he was going to tell his family.

Me: So are you going to tell your mom?
Him: No. She would just worry and call me every few hours to see how I’m doing.
Me: Why don’t you want your family to know?
Him: Oh, they would just worry.
Me: So you want to suffer alone.
Him: Yep. That’s it.
Me: (smile) Tell me again why you are doing this?
Him: Because my friends did it. It’s a rite of passage. Remember?
Me: oh... of course. So what did your girlfriend say about it?
Him: She just laughed. My sister laughed at me too when I told her.
Me: oh...

I’ve watched him bent over in pain for a number of days, complaining of the pain and barely able to see straight. Each day I tell him how sorry I am for his pain, but I secretly wonder why.

What is it about the foreskin that screams ‘rite of passage’? I would understand if it was for religious reasons... but because your friends did it? What kind of reason is that?

Also, the midwife-side-of-me wonders if it is this painful for an adult, how painful must it be for a newborn? It’s not like we have fewer nerve endings when we grow up or anything. It gives me a new insight on how a newborn must feel post-procedure.

But as a whole... I plead a bit confused -- Not having the proper equipment to honestly comment.

Help me out here... is there any other part of the body that we would willingly cut off just because our friends are doing it? Perhaps an ear lobe? A finger? The tip of our nose?

I’m just asking...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Culture Matters! - Kenya Edition

Things I've learned about how to live in Kenya...

One: Drive aggressively! Whatever you do NEVER cede the right of way! Take it no matter what! Dominate the road... and then smirk at the person you cut off. Either that... or get no where on time!

Two: Never... and I mean NEVER cry in front of a Kenyan. Kenyan's only cry when they are scared. If you cry during a movie... what does that tell them? You are afraid of the movie. Duh!

Three: NEVER compare a Kenyan to an animal. It is VERY offensive. (aka: stop being such a monkey, you're crazy as a loon, you eat like a pig, stop running around like a chicken with your head cut off... ) So check those crazy expressions at the door ... unless you intend to offend.

Four: If you want to pick a fight... and I mean a slam-bang-black-and-blue kind of fight, click your tongue at a Kenyan. It's the equivalent of giving him the bird!

Five: Being alone is socially uncomfortable to Kenyans. You can always find someone to do something with... Come here and you'll never have to be alone again. (I'm sure there are exceptions... just not many of them.)

Six: If you ask a Kenyan for directions, they may tell you the right way. They may tell you the wrong way... but they WILL tell you something. Why? Is it malicious? Heavens No! This is a shame-based society and saying, "I don't know" would shame them. So don't ask for directions... better to get lost and stay lost then shame a Kenyan.

... that's all I've got for now. I'm sure there will be much more to come.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Shiro Me a little of that!

Dinner last night! Yum. Shiro not shown.

Think heavy incense. Think flat fermented bread. Think little piles of spiced meats and over cooked veggies. Think eating with your fingers and loving every bite. That's Ethiopian food.

Habisha is a favorite local haunt by missionaries and locals alike. It's like stepping into another country with a log fire to one side of the patio and hanging rugs all around. I've been twice... and will return regularly.

My favorite part of the meal is the roasted rosemary goat meat and the shiro (a spicy garbanzo bean purree). I've determined to learn how to make it myself... even master the art! So I've found a few recipes online. The trick will be finding the ingredients.

Gormet-ish directions for this Vegan Yummy-ness!
Directions for making Shiro at home!

Monday, September 13, 2010

33 yrs of blessings!

I particularly liked the spelling of my name!

This week I turned 33 years old and honestly...  sometimes it’s hard to believe. There are things I thought I would have and do by now but haven’t. But then again, there is a list twice as long of things I’ve had the joy of experiencing. As I look back over my life, I can’t imagine living this adventure any differently. Sure, I would have avoided those freaky wave bangs of the 80’s and probably would have at least tried out for some kind of sport in High School... but all in all, no complaints.

It’s been a great 33 years. I pray the next round is just as fabulous.

One of my sisters got me a ‘special delivery’ package through a short term team and I’ve kept it to open on my birthday. It was a beautiful yellow dress. Oh! So African! I felt so thrilled to have a nice dress to wear to church. (Here, you get dressed to the hilt for Church service! I’ve been worried I would have nothing to wear.)

After church, I celebrated my birthday with missionary friends at an Italian restaurant called Medditeraneo. It was absolutely marvelous! When our server found out it was my birthday he offered me a dessert of my choice. Raspberry Cheesecake! Of Course!

But I asked him kindly NOT to sing “happy birthday” to me. (I have issues with the song. It’s like nails on a chalkboard.) If he insisted on singing, perhaps he could do it in his local language, I suggested. This confused him somewhat.... and I could hear a long discussion about it with some of the other staff in the background.

However when my most excellent cheesecake came out... it was followed by ALL the staff (including the kitchen!) singing in Swahili. It WASN’T the happy birthday song... but some chant in my honor. I loved it!

The best part was one of the chefs was beating out the rhythm with serving spoons! Priceless!

It was certainly a birthday to remember. If I can ever get the song video uploaded on youtube, i'll link it here. :- )

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

If I only had a ... sweater.

Me sporting gum boots and pancho.
Days of sun, nights of storms. The weather here cannot be predicted... at least by me. When I was told not to bring any warm clothes, I believed them. I thought I’d be coming to a land of thirst, sunburn and heat stroke.

Instead I find myself ankle deep in muddy water, dodging frogs and sporting a poncho. Recently, I was given gum boots. At the time I thought they were a bit of an exaggeration... but not anymore. Gum boots are rad!

Each night this week has brought in a light show with thunder to follow. Sometimes the rain pounds the metal roof so loud that you can’t hear yourself talk. It’s powerful and frightening.... and wonderful.
I have to admit I’m very happy to have all this rain. I’m warned the heat is coming and it’ll be a scorcher. But at the moment, anything hotter than 80 degrees is hard to imagine. I’m cold. Right now I’m snuggling under thick blankets, wishing I brought a sweater.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Baby Stephen~

This morning I was called to a birth. The mom was one of my prenatal patients and had learned in my classes that pushing too long will cause problems. I tell the women, don’t push for longer than 4 hrs at home. If your baby isn’t coming, come get help at the clinic.

I know some of you midwives (and OBs) out there will argue that pushing longer than two hours is abnormal. But these women won’t come after just two hours. So we agreed that 4 hours is WAY too long. They have started to listen.

Well, this sweet mom pushed so long at home (at her traditional midwife’s prodding) that her labia became painfully swollen. (Not having a clock, she couldn’t tell me how long it was exactly.) So, she insisted that the midwife bring her to the clinic. I’m so glad she did!

When I check her in, the fetal heart tones were normal and everything seemed in order -- except the ridiculous swelling. She was 9 + dilated with a swollen anterior lip, so I encouraged her NOT to push while I massaged it slowly away.

But the minute she had a contraction, she pushed like crazy. He was born within minutes of arriving at the clinic. Wonderful, right?       Wrong.

He was severely compromised. I don’t know what happened in the 10 minutes from normal FHTs and “the push”. But he was not well. Covered in dark chocolate brown meconium he looked even darker than normal.

Breathing in little irregular gasps, he couldn’t even be bothered to open his eyes. He was completely limp and didn’t respond for ages to all forms of stimuli. I started resuscitation efforts almost immediately but even that wasn’t helping much.

So I prayed .... and called for back-up.

Yar (my patient) watched, quiet and wide-eyed, asking for the reassurance I couldn’t give her. Is he okay? Why isn’t he moving? Won’t he cry? I didn’t know if he’d live. So I kept silent, prayed harder and worked like mad.

At his first hint of a cry... we rejoiced like little girls. Yar was all smiles. Her confidence in me was remarkable. She trusted me and was totally calm. It was so reassuring... and I must confess, not totally deserved. But by the time back-up arrived, this precious boy was doing fine with an apgar of 8. God did such a miracle!

I handed him over for monitoring and turned my focus back on Yar. She was bleeding considerably and was still oozing chocolate brown meconium. I can only assume that the long pushing at home caused fetal distress and compromise -- thus the thick meconium and hypoxia at birth.

The placenta was born without ceremony but it was unhealthy, mec stained and calcified in several parts.

I told her how glad I was she came to the clinic. She just smiled a white contagious smile and hugged him close to her chest. She understood he shouldn’t have lived but did.

Later, through my translator she told me that since I helped him live, he was my baby too. She asked to name him after me and told me that she’d be bringing him regularly to visit.

So rejoice with me as I have another name sake -- baby Stephen. Praise God for this sweet answer to prayer. He stirred in him life. For He is the life giver! May this little boy praise Him with his every breath!

Post notes: He is the biggest-bounciest-beautifulest baby I’ve delivered yet in Sudan! He weighs in at 4 kgs and is long enough to be 4 month old! He was so big in fact that Dennis wanted to rule out maternal diabetes. He was convinced he was macrosomic. But he wasn’t... just big and beautiful and breathing!

Thank you Jesus!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Clinic Truck Arrived!

A few weeks ago, we sent two IDAT workers to Uganda to purchase and bring back a truck load (literally!) of construction supplies. There were quite a few hurtles to jump but it finally arrived today!

Yeah, right? Well... sort of.

We opened the truck door and were excited to see hundreds of bags of cement. Or at least we were until... we had to unload them. But even then, it was a lot of fun. We got covered in concrete dust, carried each other around in wheel barrows and wore ourselves out!

Now we have yards of chain link fence, pounds and pounds of concrete and a brick maker! We are going to make the bricks ourselves. Exciting!

Pray that in the coming months we are able to make all the necessary bricks to see the clinic walls go up!

G1 Superstar!

Midnight births are the best! I’m serious. I love night births!

I wish every baby could be born at night! It’s quiet. It’s calm. And there are not tons of looky-lous bottlenecking the clinic halls, trying to come in the birth room.

You have to REALLY want to be at the birth to come in the middle of the night... especially in the rain. So, when I was called for a birth last night, I was happy.

I was happy because it was midnight. I was happy because it feels like ages since I delivered a slimmy-gook-covered-miracle! I was ready to rock ‘n roll!

But when I got there, she didn’t look in labor. She was too calm... and in a GI (aka: first time mom) that’s a sign you still have quite a ways to go. But I was wrong. She was definitely in labor with contractions every ten minutes, but they were disappointingly short.

I taught her about what to expect in labor, prayed for her and sent her home. I didn’t even bother to do a vaginal exam (women here often resist them... not having much experience with them). Frankly, I didn’t want to scare her.

I told her to come back right away if her water broke and if her contractions got longer and closer together. She agreed and went home to rest. I went back to sleep.

About four hours later she came back. Her water broke but she still seemed just as calm. I decided it was time to check her dilation. She was already fully with the head at a plus 3 station!

What? So fast? She had been in labor only 5 hours! With no urge to push and such a great grasp on her pain, I found no need to interfere. I set up the birth room and quietly informed my helper that the birth was eminent.
Her husband is a teacher at the local high school and speaks excellent English. When I invited him into the birth room, he looked nervous but excited. He watched the pushing process with horrified rapture and actually held her hand (not common in this culture).

Not long after, I welcomed a beautiful squaking girl to this side of the uterus. She was so large her hips got stuck on the way out! Ha ha! But it was her mom that stole the show. She was so calm, so relaxed and pushed so well. She made giving birth actually look easy!

I could only hope to be so brave.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Culture Matters! ~ Sex and Marriage.

Doing a baby check this week on a 11 day old baby, I was happy to see that both mom and baby were doing great. I asked her about her bleeding postpartum and she explained all was normal. So, I encouraged her not to start having sex again right away but to wait at least until the bleeding stops and/or 6 weeks postpartum.

She just giggled - as did my translator.

I asked what I said that made her laugh, as I was sure that I’d done some kind of social blunder. John (my translator) explained that Dinka women don’t start having sex until about 2 or 3 years postpartum. They wait until the baby is completely weaned.

I was told this was the case... but I had forgotten. John added that in Northern Sudan, (in the Arabic culture) women wait 40 days before they start having sex again, but not the Dinka women.

It got me thinking. Why?

John explained, (as if he were talking to a little kid that didn’t know any better), that of course they can’t have sex. The man’s sperm will go into the woman’s body,  reach her breast milk and spoil it. Then the baby will have stomach trouble and can die. Duh!

Then it was my turn to smile. I explained that in America, women start having sex again once the bleeding stops. And that it doesn’t hurt the baby... but, I wasn’t suggesting she do that. Heaven’s no! She can have sex again once she is ready. We all smiled and  moved on with the check-up.

Here’s the thing:
I’ve been mulling over this conversation for a while now. And I’ve drawn a few (very rudimentary) conclusions. No sex for several years makes sense in this culture -- especially in relation to marriage and babies. In fact, it’s devilishly brilliant!

Dinka women are the lowest on the totem pole. They don’t have a voice. They are given in marriage when the family decides. They have absolutely NO SAY in who it will be. The men in the family choose when it will be. Some marry as early as 12 years old. They go from being the property of one family, to being the property of another family. It’s a simple business transaction. Nothing more.

Within the family unit, the first wife is the main wife. As she conceives and delivers she is given the position of authority in the house. The second wife in a sense becomes her slave/worker. The new wife does all the grunt work until she conceives as well. Then she can have help from any subsequent wives that are brought in. Thus it continues.

Naturally, if a husband cannot have sex with his wife for years after the birth (culturally that is), it stands to reason why he’d take a second and third wife.

Also, if a woman is not ‘in love’ (in the western sense of the romantic notion) with her husband, why would she want to have sex with him - especially if he’s 40 yrs her senior and missing most his teeth!

From what I can tell, a woman needs a baby/pregnancy to be able to refuse her husband sexually and have social prestige in the marital pecking order. No wonder so many women want to be pregnant. It’s their only means of advancement and worth. Sigh.

If I were Dinka, I’d be a huge proponent of this social more. I’d be insisting on it. All I’d have to do is deliver a baby and I’d be left in peace for 3 years! Also, I get to boss around the newest wife and make her my scullery maid. Sounds too good to be true. 

Conclusion: Dinka women are brilliant! Of course, you can’t have all this sperm causing our milk to turn sour! That just will not do! Men stay away! Far away!
(Ha! Ha! Jokes on you!)

Left to die.

This week a woman was brought to our clinic. She was very ill and had been that way for quite some time. She was in shock when she arrived -- not having eaten in days and suffering from severe diarrhea. She hadn’t been cleaned in ages and was basically skin and bones.

What was most unusual was she had no care taker. They came and dropped her off then ran away. We stabilized her and treated her for severe intestinal problems... but she needed more help than we could offer. She needed to be tested for tuberculosis as well as for HIV but no one was there to take her to the other clinic.

So once she was stable, we took her to Don Bosco ourselves. It specializes in TB and HIV patients. But they were closed for the day. Meanwhile, we tracked down the man who drove her to the clinic and found her family.

They were rumored to be skipping town the following day because they didn’t want to deal with her anymore. So we took her to them in the middle of the night.

I’m told that the family was furious that we gave her back after treating her. They argued and made a fuss. Imagine that!

They had left her for dead on our doorstep. They wanted her to die. We kept her alive. They were angry.

This woman is somebody’s mother. She is somebody’s child. She is precious in God’s eyes... but not her family’s.

Answer to Prayer.

When I got here in June, we were treating patients but not teaching them the word of God. Crowds would start gathering early in the morning to be seen by doctors, but no one was telling them about the Greatest Physician -- Jesus!

I was told, they had wanted to do it for some time... but in all the madness of maintaining chaos, it got pushed aside. But everyone agreed, it was time to start. It happened to coincide with the start of a new teaching session for the pastors as well. “Couldn’t they teach them while we do devotions?” I asked.

Someone ran with the idea. (I’m still not sure who). But I was thrilled to see one morning two pastors standing under the massive tree in our yard, teaching the crowd about Jesus. They would even come and talk to my prenatal ladies (who sit in another spot).

So, rejoice with me in this lovely answer to prayer. I’m so excited to know that when the towns folk talk about our clinic, they will associate it with preaching and prayer.

Pray for many to hear, repent and be saved. Pray for God’s truth to go out and bring forth a harvest too great to gather in. Pray for transformed lives. Pray for revival!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Bound by Superstition.

The woman, notice the cords she was bound with...
A woman was carried in to our clinic today -- fighting and struggling everyone she encountered. Her wrists were bound by her family, with a very strong cord. It wasn’t helping much.

It took four strong men to hold her down so we could inject her with a powerful sedative. But it was quick to take effect. Whouf! What was that about?

We tested her for malaria as she was having all the symptoms... the worst of which is severe abnormal behavior and violence. It was positive and we started her on the appropriate treatment.

But the family was angry. I went to find out why.

They watched us treat her through the window and were horrified that we injected her with something. (Let me stop to explain. In this culture, there is a large fear of being stabbed. I still don’t fully understand the fear but it’s very real to them. Some won’t let you give them immunizations or injections because of this fear.) So when the family saw that we did this heinous thing. They were enraged.

They complained that they didn’t want to bring her here. They were trying to take her to the Witch Doctor and got lost. They wanted to take her away.

Dennis went to talk with them. He explained that she was very sick and needed the medicine we had to offer. They could take her but she would not get better at the Witch Doctor. Would they be willing to stay? They said they would stay.

But as we gave her the IV drip with Quinine, they continued to cause a stir. One man kept screaming at us through the window. He happened to have a rifle -- as he was a military officer.

Dennis asked them to leave as guns are not permitted on the premises but they refused. Our guards stood there like confused little boys doing nothing. It’s at this point that Dennis told them that if they insisted on taking her, they could. But they had to leave --and leave now. They came and took her away.

She will most likely die without proper treatment. Her malaria is so severe and a Witch Doctor will do nothing for her. I shudder to think of the rituals he’ll do on her.

The superstitions bind her in sickness and death as much as her cords on her wrists.  Lord free them of this burden and curse. Show them the truth. Save Lord. Save now. Please... Save her.

Cattle Raiders...

One of my precious pregnant women came in yesterday for care. She was crying and very concerned about her baby. She reported that the night before she was raped when cattle raiders came through her camp.


She is 5 months pregnant and was rough handled during the rape. What if they hurt her baby too? We listened to her baby’s heart beat and both sighed in relief when we found it. She smiled knowing that at least her baby was going to be okay. But what about her? 

Cattle raiders are bandits that come and shoot up cattle herders, killing at random and stealing all the heads of cattle they can. They kill children. They rape women. They maim men-- All for cows.

Pray for God’s Spirit to move among this land. Pray for women like Monica to be free from this fear and injustice. Pray for revival. Man cannot fix the problems of Sudan... only God can.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


On Friday, one of my prenatal patients came in a few days postpartum with a seriously engorged left breast. It was 2 and 1/2 times it’s normal size and shiny with stretching. It looked outrageously painful.

We helped express a lot of the milk and even got the baby to nurse from it. Well, I’m not sure what happened over the weekend... but she came in today with open erosions on her skin. Engorgement has progressed to Abscess ridiculously fast.

Or had it? It is guessed that her family in an effort to help with the engorgement continued to express the milk very aggressively. They made things worse. Now she has three large erosions on her breast. It is still just as engorged. I can barely imagine the pain she must be in.

Thinking that it had become an abscess, Dennis incised it today. No pus was removed but a drain was placed in and we’ll be caring for her daily until it improves. I honestly don’t know what to think.... other than ouch!

I’ll keep you posted.